Government

Ernst sees farm bill, WOTUS rule change as good news for Iowa

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst responds to questions from audience members during a town hall meeting at the Washington High School Performing Arts Center in Washington, Iowa, on Tuesday, August 15, 2017. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst responds to questions from audience members during a town hall meeting at the Washington High School Performing Arts Center in Washington, Iowa, on Tuesday, August 15, 2017. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Passage of the five-year, $867 billion farm bill and the EPA’s proposed changes in the controversial Waters of the United States rule have made this a “great week” for Iowa agriculture, according to Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa.

The Iowa Republican, a member of the House-Senate conference committee on the farm bill, said Thursday, “I can tell you this is good news for Iowa.”

“Farmers and ranchers are the backbone of our economy, and it is our responsibility to provide them with the certainty and predictability they deserve,” Ernst said in a conference call with reporters.

“With their livelihoods dependent on factors largely out of their control, getting the farm bill done was a must-do and a big win.”

Ernst was pleased her Farmers First language that addresses the “incredibly high rate” of suicide in the agricultural community was included in the final version, which now goes to President Donald Trump. It will provide mental health support and resources to farmers, she said.

Other Ernst proposals in the bill included the GROW Act, which she said will revise and strengthen conservation programs, and another program to encourage food stamp recipients to use more dairy products. She called it a “win-win” for nutrition and dairy producers.

Another “huge win” was the EPA-proposed replacement for the “burdensome” Obama-era WOTUS rule. Since implemented in 2015, Ernst said, farmers have been in a “state of regulatory limbo.”

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However, the proposed rule will provide “much-needed predictability and certainty by establishing clear and reasonable definitions as what qualifies as a WOTUS,” Ernst said.

That rule, she said, has been one of her top priorities since arriving in Congress in 2015. She sponsored legislation to nullify WOTUS, but President Barack Obama vetoed it.

“With this new proposed rule,” she said, “we are one step closer to finally ending egregious federal overreach.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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